Province Holds Spring Leadership Meetings

Province Spring Leadership Meetings

By Fr. Mike Mendl, SDB

The province of St. Philip the Apostle held its annual spring leadership meeting via Zoom on March 18-19, 2021. The meetings were planned by the provincial council and facilitated by vice provincial Fr. Steve Ryan.

Forty-three invited confreres took part in the March 18 portion: Fr. Tim Zak, provincial councilors, directors, and other province leaders. The topics for the day were the 28th General Chapter, the province’s educational-pastoral plan, formation for ministry in the province, and reports from the province’s sector delegates.

After Fr. Tim welcomed everyone and Fr. Luc Lantagne led a prayer to the Holy Spirit, Fr. Tim led a review of the work of GC28. The key components were the message that Pope Francis sent to the chapter, the post-capitular reflection published in the Acts, and the Rector Major’s action program for 2020-2026.

Province Spring Leadership Meetings Salesian News N. 125
Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime, Rector Major
and Fr. Tim Zak, Provincial, June 2018
Photo credit: Ageniza Info Salesiana (ANS)
General Chapter 28

Pope Francis challenges the Congregation to “revive the gift you have received,” viz., the charism of Don Bosco. He urges us to take up the “Valdocco option” of evangelizing the poorest and most abandoned youngsters and their families, and to do so through our presence (accompaniment).

Fr. Angel’s program includes strengthening our Salesian identity, missionary zeal, accompaniment, ongoing formation, working together with laity on behalf of poor and abandoned youths, and efforts to save our common home (care for creation).

The province has devised a three-year plan to begin to implement GC28 and the Rector Major’s program.

Several participants offered follow-up comments, particularly concerning the chapter. One interesting point was that the Holy Father’s message was truly his own (not ghostwritten by a Salesian) and presents his wish for genuine Salesian presence among the young.

The Province SEPP

Fr. Abe Feliciano presented the Salesian Educational-Pastoral Plan as the result of a long consultation in the province, aiming to help the province accompany at-risk youths. Fr. Rich Alejunas asked for a Spanish edition of the plan, and others asked for French and other languages.

Fr. Abe stressed that the SEPP has to be implemented locally according to the situation in each Salesian presence. He also emphasized that the Frame of Reference for Youth Ministry is the touchstone on which the SEPP is based and to which all our province youth ministry has to refer.

Formation for Ministry

Fr. Steve Shafran and a team have been developing the 16-session plan for the formation of Salesians and laity working in our presences. He had presented it in outline at last fall’s meeting. He explained how the plan is being worked out. It should be ready for local execution in all our presences when the new pastoral year starts in August-September.

Fr. Steve Ryan at Meeting
Photo credit: Fr. Mike Mendl, SDB
Delegates’ Reports

Fr. Steve Ryan reported on what’s been done in the formation sector. The great hope is to have in-person retreats this summer in Tampa, Haverstraw, and Granby.

Fr. Jim Berning particularly commended Fr. Louis Grech’s virtual retreat of last summer, and Fr. Steve reminded us that it’s available online at DMACT.

Fr. Steve gave an update on the province’s safe environment practices.

Fr. Tom Brennan very briefly stated that all our ministries are both missionary and vocational.

Fr. Dominic Tran gave an update from the vocation office, including an April “Zoom and See” weekend and ongoing virtual retreats.

Fr. Dennis Donovan presented a financial report. He also spoke of elder care. The elder care section of the province handbook should be completed soon. There’s a separate manual for elder care for the guidance of directors in all the houses.

Fr. Abe announced the publication of a CYM profile to serve as a template for local CYM job descriptions. Some youth ministry manuals are in preparation.

Fr. Tom Dunne reported on developments in the Salesian Family, especially various local and province spirituality days and a 2022 pilgrimage to Piedmont and Rome (for World Family Day). Copies of the new Salesian Family book are available online (free) or in print ($20).

Fr. Tim asked for updates on our confreres in nursing homes, and their directors responded. He also reminded everyone to continue to follow CDC and diocesan guidelines re: Covid-19.

Day 2

The March 19 session was open to everyone in the province, and about 80 confreres and young men in formation took part. Fr. Tim announced the agenda as reflections on the 2021 Strenna and the celebration of St. Joseph’s solemnity. Then Bro. Bernie Dubé led a prayer to St. Joseph.

Presentation on the Strenna

Fr. Lou Molinelli summarized the 2021 Strenna, using a question, “What gives you hope?”, as his focus point.  He meant personal hope, hope for the province, hope for the Salesian Family, hope for the world.  He itemized reasons for hope such as the realities and the good people around us.

The Rector Major encourages us to find joy by creating a new (post-pandemic) normal.  Salesians are hopeful because God accompanies us on our journey toward heaven. The Rector Major says that the “true stars of life are those who’ve lived good lives,” pointing to our Salesian saints.

Pope Francis calls upon us to be “people of the spring,” not of the autumn.  Amid many unhappy experiences in his life, Don Bosco also found hope because Divine Providence was with him.  Salesians know our mission will always be here, and God will always be with us. Pope Francis reminds us that no one is saved alone; the good of one is the good of all; we work in communion. Presence is the key to our spirituality. 

Salesians interpret the present moment as a time to progress from the confinement of the pandemic to opening up, from individualism to solidarity, from isolation to encounter, from division to communion, from discouragement and emptiness to transcendence.  Fr. Lou sees in these points “new foundations of the Preventive System.”  

Fr. Angel Fernandez identifies 9 ways in which the Salesian Family witnesses to hope:

            1. Don Bosco’s enthusiasm;

            2. hope-filled prayer with others;

            3. “the spirituality of the daily grind” (Fr. Viganò); 

            4. trust in God in dark times; 

            5. taking the side of all who suffer;

            6. Jesus is our hope; renewing our evangelization;

            7. Fratelli tutti; concerned to make our common home flourish;

            8. everything is in God’s hands, not ours.

Finally, the Rector Major urges us to entrust ourselves to Mary, mother of hope.

After a break, Fr. Tom Dunne, Bro. John Castonguay, and Fr. Juan Pablo Rubio gave talks as “witnesses of hope.”  Then the participants broke in small groups for discussions on what they’d heard.  After another break, everyone reassembled to share what had been said and offer further reflections.

Province Spring Leadership Meetings
Photo credit: Fr. Abraham Feliciano, SDB
From the Small Groups & Individuals

Fr. Lou’s presentation and the witness talks were inspirational. When we consider how Don Bosco persevered through repeated challenges because of his trust in Providence, we find the hope we need to keep going.

Young Salesians are a source of hope for the older confreres, and vice versa.  Salesians also draw hope from the people they encounter in ministry, who truly appreciate priests and religious.

During the pandemic, the members of communities drew closer together and were very supportive of one another.

This virtual assembly of confreres has been a joyful experience and could be used for future province assemblies.

From the pandemic experience and these reflections, we can have a greater appreciation for our Salesian presence to one another and to the young.

The Gospel is our hope. Pope Francis is a beacon of hope. So are the sacraments.


Fr. Tim thanked everyone for their presence. He urged us to allow God to make all things new in our lives, even through the pandemic, to continue to minister to each other, and to continue observing CDC and diocesan policies. He asked that we remember the confreres who are out of the province for studies or in the missions. He said we need to continue to review the strenna and share it with the Salesian Family through the rest of the year.

More than 350 people joined the Mass of St. Joseph livestreamed from the provincial house chapel; Fr. Tim presided.


March 25, 2021 - 8:49am

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